Perspectives Book Club Message Board › Please Vote! February Book Club Pick: Memoirs and Biographies

Please Vote! February Book Club Pick: Memoirs and Biographies

Liz B
lizboltuc
Group Organizer
Cleveland, OH
Please head to the polls­ to vote for your pick for February's Book Club Pick. The poll will remain open until midnight on New Year's Day.

 

­Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu


Ping Fu knows what it’s like to be a child soldier, a factory worker, and a political prisoner. To be beaten and raped for the crime of being born into a well-educated family. To be deported with barely enough money for a plane ticket to a bewildering new land. To start all over, without family or friends, as a maid, waitress, and student.

Ping Fu also knows what it’s like to be a pioneering software programmer, an innovator, a CEO, and Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. To be a friend and mentor to some of the best-known names in technology. To build some of the coolest new products in the world. To give speeches that inspire huge crowds. To meet and advise the president of the United States.

It sounds too unbelievable for fiction, but this is the true story of a life in two worlds.

Born on the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution, Ping was separated from her family at the age of eight. She grew up fighting hunger and humiliation and shielding her younger sister from the teenagers in Mao’s Red Guard. At twenty-five, she found her way to the United States; her only resources were $80 in traveler’s checks and three phrases of English: thank you, hello, and help.

Yet Ping persevered, and the hard-won lessons of her childhood guided her to success in her new home¬land. Aided by her well-honed survival instincts, a few good friends, and the kindness of strangers, she grew into someone she never thought she’d be—a strong, independent, entrepreneurial leader. A love of problem solving led her to computer science, and Ping became part of the team that created NCSA Mosaic, which became Netscape, the Web browser that forever changed how we access information. She then started a company, Geomagic, that has literally reshaped the world, from personalizing prosthetic limbs to repair¬ing NASA spaceships.

Bend, Not Break depicts a journey from imprisonment to freedom, and from the dogmatic anticapitalism of Mao’s China to the high-stakes, take-no-prisoners world of technology start-ups in the United States. It is a tribute to one woman’s courage in the face of cruelty and a valuable lesson on the enduring power of resilience.

The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long


A New York City firefighter’s emotional and inspiring memoir of learning to run again after a debilitating accident, based on the wildly popular March 2009 piece in Runner’s World.

On the morning of December 22, 2005, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. The injuries he sustained pushed him within inches of his life. Miraculously, more than 40 operations and months later, Matt was able to start his recovery. In spite of the severity of his injuries, Matt found the psychological consequences of the accident nearly as hard to process. He would no longer be able to compete at the highest level.
In the 18 months before the accident, he had competed in more than 20 events including several triathlons and marathons and had qualified for running’s most prestigious race, the Boston Marathon.
After the accident, his doctor told him he’d be lucky if he could even walk without a cane.
The Long Run is an emotional and incredibly honest story about Matt’s determination to fight through fear, despair, loneliness, and intense physical and psychological pain to regain the life he once had. The book chronicles Matt’s road to recovery as he teaches himself to walk again and, a mere three years later, to run in the 2008 New York City Marathon—a gimpy seven-and-a-half hour journey through the five boroughs. “Running saved my life,” Matt says, and his embrace of the running community and insistence on competing in the marathon has inspired many, turning him into a symbol of hope and recovery for untold numbers of others.
­
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin


The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.


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